Siti Amalina Ariffin, founder of Muslim lifestyle portal Roopawan, talks to Amalina Kamal about the fundamentals of e-business
PLEASE TELL US MORE ABOUT ROOPAWAN
Roopawan (www.roopawan.com) offers local and international Muslim fashion and beauty products, including prayer/worship needs. It has been nine months since it began operations with over 50 brands listed to date.
My business partner and I decided to establish this platform because we realised that there is still a gap to push for an online market focusing on the niche that we carry — a lot of the existing e-commerce sites either do not necessarily provide the Muslimah category we speak of or only offer limited selections.
WHAT IS THE APPEAL OF ROOPAWAN AS AN E-COMMERCE PLATFORM?
Going online automatically open your doors to reach out to a larger audience. In this case, running an e-commerce site does not restrict our services to only cater within the perimeters of “a store”, it goes beyond the locality that we are based at. The Muslimah industry is a global one, and Roopawan aspires to become one day. It is also one of the reasons why we invited non-local brands/designers on board.
Getting their attention is nothing too complex, we simply approached them via email to find out if they are interested. Most of the recommendations come from our own friends too. The difference between online and physical retail is that the former gives you more control over your target market. The analytics that you get allow you to understand consumers’ shopping patterns better and allow us to anticipate and react to the trends accordingly.
HOW DO YOU MAKE ROOPAWAN ATTRACTIVE TO POTENTIAL BRANDS AND SHOPPERS?
Roopawan allows brand partners to control their product pricing. We give them that freedom mainly because we don’t stock up on inventory as a means to save cost on rental, packaging and logistics (this is also another reason
being online benefitted us).
For now, we acquire the products through Drop Shipping.
We reference our business model based on Etsy (etsy.com), which can be seen as a simple e-commerce website utilising the marketplace model that sells goods and earns revenue from commission.
What we plan to do in the future is to also collaborate with specific brands to come up with seasonal items/promotions that benefit both sellers and consumers. Shoppers will also be continuously updated on latest product releases through our newsletters.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN THIS VENTURE?
Ultimately, the goal is to encourage consumers to become smart shoppers and that means we (like it or not) have to become smart retailers as well to cater to growing demand. One thing about getting involved in e-commerce is that it constantly puts business owners on their toes to meet those demands and that alone is a challenge.
The online market is also becoming quite competitive, just look at the number of online retail stores available. That is why you need to have a clear business vision, in other words, it’s all about focusing on your niche — being a one-stop centre offering Muslimah needs is ours and we just have to best make sure that we deliver.
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS TO MAINTAIN AN ONLINE BUSINESS?
Quite simply, it’s knowledge and focus. Starting an online business is not as simple as sitting back after setting up an e-commerce platform and letting “digital nature” takes its course. You really have to put a lot of research into studying targeted consumers and product/service value to maintain interests.
The data and analytics are presented for a reason so it will be unwise to ignore them.
Apart from how it appeals aesthetically, you have to know how things work on the back end as well — basic programming and digital design — to ensure a seamless shopping experience.
Being resourceful with all the online marketing tools (engaging with online communities
and exploiting social media opportunities) available is key.